In the past two days, police have shot and killed two black men – Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. All the relevant caveats apply – we don’t yet know all the details about the circumstances leading up to their deaths. But by all accounts (I can’t watch), the available video appears extremely damning of police conduct. The basic facts are well known at this point. Of all killings by police, young black men are victims in numbers far higher than their share of the population. And we know from comprehensive studies of policing, that black men are being profiled in such a way as to ensure many more encounters with police, even for petty offenses (Castile was pulled over because of a busted tail light. Eric Gardner, who was choked to death by a Staten Island police officer in 2014, was selling loose cigarettes and there was no dispute about whether he was armed or dangerous at the time of his death).
Not surprisingly, numerous high profile athletes are expressing outright fear this morning for their own safety, as catalogued by Huffington Post’s Juliet Spies-Gans:
I have a very small wish in the face of all this. The next time a high profile athlete speaks out publicly, on behalf of Black Lives Matter, or in sympathy with the victim of another of these shootings, that anyone who thinks athletes should just shut up and play would kindly go fuck themselves.